Napoleon is a musical by Canadians Andrew Sabiston and Timothy Williams. It premiered at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto on 23 March 1994 with Jérôme Pradon in the title role and Aline Mowat as leading lady Josephine. Directed by John Wood and orchestrated by David Cullen, it was the largest ever Canadian musical, with a budget of five million dollars. It was nominated for a Dora Award for Best Musical.
The musical was later produced at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London with previews from 30 September 2000 and officially opened on 13 October 2000, starring Paul Baker and Uwe Kröger (who performed three of the eight a week in the title role), with Anastasia Barzee as Josephine. It was directed by Francesca Zambello, and legendary West End producer by Duncan Weldon. The orchestrations were by Jonathan Tunick.
Napoleon ran for six months. While Friday through Sunday were sold out, Tuesday through Thursday were slow. With 32 in the cast and an orchestra of 28, producers cited the high running costs as the principal reason for closure. The show closed on 3 February, just two months after the booking period was extended to 28 April 2001.
The show celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2009 with a brand new concert version in Barrie, Ontario. It was directed by Richard Ouzounian. The concert version starred Canada's own Adam Brazier (previously seen on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White and Blythe Wilson). To mark the anniversary the original 1994 cast album with Jérôme Pradon and Aline Mowat was released by Stage Door Records (UK), with 15 tracks. The original release was 18 tracks.
Andrew Sabiston is a television and theatre writer in Toronto, and Timothy Williams went on to be a film/television composer. In addition, he orchestrated and conducted 300, Watchmen and The Day The Earth Stood Still. He has won a Dora Award and two Thea awards.
The plot of Napoleon centers mostly on two aspects - Napoleon Bonaparte's rise from a common man to a leading war general (and leader) of France. Secondly, it focuses on the romantic relationship of Napoleon and his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais. In the musical, Josephine sings most of the memorable numbers including "The Friend You Were to Me," "Only in Fantasy" and "On That First Night" (which is a duet with Napoleon).
The original cast recording of Napoleon was released by EMI Angel Broadway and has become a cult item. A bonus track was recorded by Dan Hill and reached number 16 on the Canadian charts. Songs from Napoleon have been covered by Dan Hill, Stig Rossen, Uwe Kröger, Stephanie Martin, Adam Brazier, and Blythe Wilson.
Songs were recently incorporated into Field of Dreams and Anthology of Canadian Musicals. Excerpts can frequently be heard on Radio programs hosted by Richard Ouzounian in Canada and Elaine Paige in England.
In 2001, First Night Records released a 5-track Cast Recording for sale of the Original London Cast. Re-orchestrated, it features only one new song ("Only In Fantasy"), sung by Anastasia Barzee. The entire full score with the large orchestra was recorded and is available for listening on the official website, but unfortunately due to union contracts and payment issues, the cast recording remains unreleased for purchasing.
In 2009, there was a limited re-release celebrating the 15th anniversary, featuring 15 tracks instead of 18.
- Napoleonic Ambition, jeromepradon.com, accessed 26 July 2010
- " Napoleon Production, Synopsis, Cast and Musical Numbers" guidetomusicaltheatre.com, accessed April 18, 2012